Sean Miller-Moore was just 5 years old when his father died of lung cancer. His mother was shot and killed when he was 6.
Raised by his grandmother and aunt, he arrived in Corvallis a few weeks ago as one of the newest members of the Oregon State men’s basketball program already with a pocketful of life experiences.
Basketball became his outlet.
“I grew up faster than a lot of other kids,” said Miller-Moore, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard and junior college transfer from Toronto, Ontario. “I didn’t have rides to practice. I didn’t have my parents there to pay for my bills, for AAU trips and stuff. I really had to figure out everything by myself.”
It wasn’t until he was in 11th grade that he realized he wanted to pursue the sport going forward. He says a lack of guidance was a primary factor why he went the junior college route and landed at Missouri’s Moberly Area Community College in Moberly, Missouri, where he played for two years.
He averaged 18.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore last season, helping the Greyhounds to a 26-7 record, a regional title and a berth in the junior college national tournament.
That helped him reel in a Division I scholarship and make another step forward. He sees basketball as his best current opportunity.
“If I wasn’t playing basketball I don’t know what I would be doing. So I try to play with a chip on my shoulder. I try to take every situation seriously,” Miller-Moore said. “When adversity hits me I do anything to figure it out. I don’t put my head down. I do anything to figure it out. I grind and it’s all I’ve got.”
He signed with Oregon State in late April.
Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle describes Miller-Moore as “an incredible athlete with a high motor and will bring toughness and athleticism to our forward positions.”
“He's a great kid who has been through a lot growing up and has faced a ton of adversity,” the coach added. “He has a great support group back home and has worked his tail off to get where he is.”
Toughness and athleticism were the focuses of Oregon State’s efforts for the incoming recruiting class.
Miller-Moore used the word “tough” to describe his own attributes.
“I’ll do anything to win,” he said. “Whatever coach needs me to do I’ll do it. Good in transition, can make the right play.”
He has an older sister and brother and a younger brother, Tyrell, who is chasing his own basketball dreams.
Tyrell Moore is an incoming freshman point guard at Lambton College, a small school in Ontario.
“I’m just excited for him,” Miller-Moore said.
He’s also excited about the development of basketball in his home country.
Canada has produced a number of NBA players in recent years, including Jamal Murray, Kelly Olynyk, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.
Anthony Bennett (2013) and Wiggins (2014) were number-one overall NBA draft picks. Duke’s R.J. Barrett, taken third in this year’s draft by the New York Knicks, is also Canadian.
Prep schools that develop basketball players are popping up throughout the country.
“Now, when I go back home, every kid is playing on every corner. Everyone wants to play basketball now,” Miller-Moore said. “I know we’re known for hockey, but basketball is on the rise.”
And the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA championship last month doesn’t hurt that rise.
“You know I’m excited about that, but I’m mad that (Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard) left. But it’s OK. He did his job,” Miller-Moore said.
He’s been scrimmaging and working out with his fellow first-year OSU players the past few weeks, and his game has caught the attention of his new teammates.
Julien Franklin, a true freshman shooting guard, says Miller-Moore is a really good athlete who can handle the ball.
“Sean can do a little bit of everything,” added true freshman point guard Gianni Hunt. “He’s really athletic in the open court. Transition, he can get going. He can catch a lob or two. He can knock down the 3-ball as well. I like playing with him. He’s a high-energy guy.”
With his experience, Miller-Moore said he’s been given the green light to use his leadership skills in working with the freshmen.
He sees a group of players coming out of high school that the program can build with going forward. He sees no arrogance from a bunch that’s not fooling around and wants to improve and help the team.
“They’re all willing to listen. I can tell when I say something all eyes are on me,” he said. “They know I’ve been in college for two years.”
With a desire to help everyone, Miller-Moore hopes to continue in that leadership role once the veterans rejoin the team.
“Even if they’re older than me,” he said. “If I know a little bit I’m going to say it. If they know a little bit I’m going to listen.”